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Celebrating Defeat

“In ourselves are triumph and defeat.”

            — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Recently, I had the opportunity to help prepare a group of students for their first time foray into voting. This group of third graders was running for Student Council; for most of them, it was the first time they have come across the idea that some of them would be elected and some of them would not be. Many of them have tried out for teams before, and been sorted into different groups. But very, very few of them had been in a position where they stood next to friend, knowing that only one of them would receive the position. As their mentor, it is a nerve wracking moment. You see the benefits in them learning that you do not always win. But, of course, you do not want their heart broken either. In those few moments when they announcements of winners are made, you see the fear in their eyes followed by either the joy of success or the reality of defeat.

If you are fortunate, you see those who lost congratulating the winners and those who won consoling the ones who did not get elected. That was the case at our school and it was beautiful to watch. But, I learned the most important lesson from watching the one who chose to celebrate her defeat. She chose to stand amongst her peers and celebrate their election, and looked over at another one saying, ‘I’m going to run again next year and I already know what I’m going to do different.” It was amazing to watch the ability of this 8 year old as she was able to accept the loss of something that was important to her and make a plan for how to do it better next time.

As adults, we know that is the way of the world. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t. But, those moments define us. How we handle the win or the loss sets us apart. The one characteristic this beautiful young lady had was grace. She did not cry. She did not demand a recount. She simply congratulated those around her and worked to see how she could do it differently in the future.

It is through the eyes of a child we are reminded of the beauty of the world, even when that beauty is shrouded in loss.



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